Does Senator Jeanne Shaheen #BelieveSurvivors? That was certainly her message during the 2018 confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh when she not only voted against his confirmation, but embraced the unsubstantiated allegations Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made against him.
Now the Joe Biden faces ever more credible allegations of sexual assault, is that Shaheen’s position today?
On Thursday, news broke of a court document from 1996 revealing that former Senate staffer Tara Reade told her ex-husband she was sexually harassed while working for Joe Biden in 1993. The San Luis Obispo Tribune found the document and reports:
In the filing dated March 25, 1996, [former husband Theodore] Dronen testified that he met Reade in the spring of 1993 while the two worked for separate members of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Dronen wrote that Reade told him she “eventually struck a deal with the chief of staff of the Senator’s office and left her position.”
“It was obvious that this event had a very traumatic effect on (Reade), and that she is still sensitive and effected (sic) by it today,” Dronen wrote.
And yet Shaheen repeatedly spoke out publicly on Blasey Ford’s behalf. “It would sent a horrible message to survivors of sexual assault if that if they come forward they will be discounted, demeaned and ignored. Sadly, the allegations brought forward today reflect the experiences of far too many women,” Shaheen tweeted.
And in Glamour magazine a year before the Kavanaugh hearings, Shaheen wrote:
“For survivors of assault in the workplace, they often fear retaliation that could hurt or end their careers. But many also fear being traumatized anew by a criminal justice system that often seems to blame the victim or puts unnecessary and arbitrary obstacles in their path.”
That could come straight from a story about Reade, who in an interview with Megyn Kelly was asked whether she would agree to take a polygraph test.
“I”m not a criminal,” Reade replied. “Joe Biden should take the polygraph. What precedent does that set for survivors? Are we presumed guilty? So I’ll take one if Joe Biden takes one.”
That sounds like something Senator Shaheen might have said about Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. Remember, Shaheen was under no obligation to publicly declare #BelieveSurvirors. She thought speaking out on behalf of a woman making a charge from decades earlier against a politically powerful man was important.
And today? With new court evidence backing an allegation of violent sexual assault against the Democratic presidential nominee, a candidate she’s supporting? Sheheen’s office refused yet again to answer any questions from NHJournal about her support for Joe Biden and her rejection of Tara Reade’s allegations.
Shaheen’s not alone, either.
Fellow Democrat Sen. Maggie Hassan also voted against confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and declared that she believed Blasey Ford’s allegations.
And like Shaheen, Hassan condemned the sort of treatment of alleged survivors that Reade is receiving today, saying: “When survivors of sexual assault come forward they should not be doubted, diminished, or bullied.”
“This is wrong,” Hassan added.
New Hampshire Democrats have repeatedly stumbled over the question of whether to embrace or reject political allies with histories of problematic treatment of women. When the party decided the century-old tradition of a Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner was racially offensive, they changed the name to the Kennedy-Clinton dinner — two prominent Democrats (JFK and Bill Clinton) widely known for their abusive and demeaning treatment of women.
It took less than a year for the dinner to be renamed yet again, this time after Eleanor Roosevelt.
The controversy didn’t end there. The first speaker at an Eleanor Roosevelt fundraising dinner was actor Alec Baldwin. Baldwin is both an outspoken advocate of progressive causes and a repeat abuser of women. The NH Democratic Party declined to answer questions about why they would make him their keynote speaker barely a week after Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
None of this may matter in November, when Shaheen will face off against either attorney Corky Messner or retired Gen. Don Bolduc. Polls show President Trump is underwater by more than 10 points with women in New Hampshire and Republicans underperformed with women voters in 2018, too.
As long as Democratic women are willing to put partisanship over personal behavior — as many evangelical Christians did when they supported Donald Trump in 2016 — this issue is little more than a minor embarrassment for Shaheen.
If Senator Shaheen has an answer for why she urged people to believe Blasey Ford’s uncorroborated story but remains silent in the face of credible allegations against Joe Biden, she’s keeping it to herself. So is Senator Hassan.
As long as Democratic women remain loyal to the party, do Hassan and Shaheen even need one?